From Publishers Weekly
Based on the author's harrowing experiences, this first novel is a journey into homelessness, youthful angst, drugs and hopelessness in Chicago. Paul, 14, runs away from home and is quickly picked up by the police after slashing his wrists. Placed in the adolescent unit of a mental institution and deeply depressed, he reviews his life, seeking solace from the motley crew of his fellow inmates. All are equally rootless and confused. French Fry is horribly disfigured following an attempt to burn himself to death; Mike swallowed pills; Jay set fire to a church. Escaping with Tanya, another inmate, Paul commences a twisted life on the streets, interrupted by a short, terrifying stint at the infamous Robert Taylor Homes housing project. Although Elliott keeps the scenes strong and succinct, he frequently pushes the pace so hard that the reader is unable digest what has come before. His ability to capture the fragile sensibility of troubled youth is uncanny, however, and his descriptions of life on the streets are crookedly lyrical. Paul tries to retain his humanity despite being placed in a series of ineffective group homes, and though constantly struggling to adjust to the outside world and become a "normal" human being, he is restless, unable to stay in one place; he eventually hits bottom during a stint in a mental hospital. Finally landing in yet another Chicago group home, he makes a last push toward sanity and stability. The bittersweet conclusion doesn't quite satisfy, but this is an impressive debut, a promising work of fiction and an eloquent expression of life as few people are unlucky enough to know it.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-With gritty, unrelenting realism, Elliott offers a semiautobiographical tale of a runaway who must navigate his way through Chicago's juvenile services system. Paul escapes from his abusive father and is picked up by the police and placed in a psychiatric ward where he is confronted with the first of many adults who prey upon youth. The teen is shuffled in and out of many places before settling into a group home where he begins to assume some sense of normalcy by attending a "real world" high school. There he battles against depression and struggles to make a life for himself outside of the institutionalized settings that have shaped his life. While some young people will find it hard to read about the harsh reality of drugs, prostitution, homelessness, and violence that this teen is confronted with, others will find it compelling and be able to relate to many of his hardships. This is a novel that will leave readers rooting for Paul and hoping that he will succeed.Julie Dasso, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.